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Moto Morini Three and a Half: Nove
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Nothing for two years, and then two updates in six weeks – that's what deadlines do for you. Martin Gelder's 1982 Moto Morini 350 Sport gets ready for the Festival of 1000 Bikes...

At the end of the last episode I was left with a half stripped Morini and several boxes full of assorted oily, rusty and worn out parts. The plan was to replace the swinging arm bushes and spindle, and then repaint the swinging arm and tidy up the paintwork on the mudguard and the rear of the frame before putting it all back together

RealClassic message board regular and collector of abandoned Morinis 'EvGuru' had offered to produce a new stainless steel swinging arm spindle to replace the worn out original. Fortunately he's the sort of chap who has a blasting cabinet and degreasing tank in his spare (don't ask) shed and these made it a fairly easy job to clean the paint and rust from the swinging arm.

new bushes made out of old candles... Humber-Not!

Having done the hard work on the spindle himself, EvGuru let me loose on his lathe to produce the PTFE bushes. The last time I did anything like this Britain still had a manufacturing industry. It was very satisfying to still be able to produce the two parts to fairly close tolerances, even if they were only PTFE and not proper metal.

EVGuru and his one and only vice...

With the bushes in the swinging arm and reamed to suit the spindle, it was time to start the repainting and reassembly. The swinging arm and battery box were painted with Smootherite, as I'm not going for a concours finish, and once I'd adjusted to the new formulation of the aerosol paint (It's not as thick as it used to be. Unlike me.) the results weren't too bad.

The rear mudguard, which initially looked as though it would simply need a bit of touching up around the edges, turned out to be much more of a challenge than I had expected. Cleaning the muck off the bottom revealed that there was more rust than metal, and it had split in several places around its rear tip. Oh dear.

Less is more? 1982 Moto Morini 350K Sport, half undressed.

And then I remembered this photo (above) from last month's update. The K model Morinis were graced with a clumsy eighties style rear seat faring which did little for the bike's aeshtetics, and I'd already wondered about the possibility of fitting something a little more minimalist and closer to the original design. Pattern “hump backed” Morini seats are readily available, but fitting one of those would mean removing half a dozen frame lugs, and whatever I did I wanted to keep the option of returning the bike back to standard.

Extra points for showing my working? PhotoShop mock up.

After much deliberation and several Photoshop mock ups, a replica Ducati 750SS seat unit was ordered from Disco Volante Moto, to be paired with a universal black plastic trials mudguard from Trail and Trials UK and a nice and tidy Bullet tail light from Paul Goff.

Three photos; hours of work. Ducati 750SS "Round Case" seat. Top left; as it came. Bottom left; built up pads. Right; ready to fit.

The seat unit was a surprisingly good fit, almost as if it was meant to be there. The base needed building up slightly with fibreglass to meet the frame lugs, but after a few coats of paint it looks like it was designed to fit the back of a Morini 350K. The closed-cell foam seat material came from Mead Speed.

More by accident than design... Looks like it was meant to be there...

The rest of the rebuilding became a process of compiling and working through endless lists of things to do. Every completed task seemed to generate two further jobs, and each of those would then reveal another problem that needed attention, and so on. And all the time that deadline of the Festival of 1000 Bikes at Mallory Park was looming ever closer. The fact that I'm writing this story on the day before I leave for the circuit should tell you how tight time has become over the last few weeks.

At least some of the problems that emerged brought unexpected benefits. With the seat back on, I couldn't resist taking the half finished bike for a quick spin round the block (on my private estate, of course. Ahem).

The gearbox, clutch and brakes all worked as they should, but riding the bike without the right hand sidepanel meant that my fat thigh had dislodged something crucial amongst the spaghetti bolognese of the Morini's wiring. No horn, no brake light, no indicators, no charge to the battery.

An afternoon spent disconnecting each lead in turn, spraying it with contact cleaner and then reconnecting it restored normal service, and also brought life back to a couple of the idiot lights that I'd long ago given up for dead.

The front brake system was treated to a set of Goodridge braided brake lines, assembled from a kit of parts supplied by my local bike shop, and both front and rear systems were bled through with new fluid. I'm convinced that it's easier to bleed a brake system from dry than it is to simply pump fresh fluid into a working system.

The only bit of specialist equipment I use is a piece of clear tube with a one way valve...

The only bit of specialist equipment I use is a piece of clear tube with a one way valve and – touch wood – I never seem to hit any of the problems that keep cropping up on the RC message board.

The MOT was carried out at the same shop that sold me all the bits and pieces I'd needed to get the bike finished, and despite the tester being younger than the bike - “Don't tell me where the ignition key goes, I'll find it in a minute” - and despite him subjecting the electrics to a most undignified “turn everything on at once and check the indicators still flash” ordeal that I'm sure wasn't part of the original test in the 1980s, the bike passed first time.

It wasn't a totally clean sheet, with advisories for the ever-so slightly notchy head bearings (the balls were replaced about 1000 miles ago but it sounds like I should have done the races as well) and for a rear brake disc with a “fluctuating action” due to some minor corrosion where the bike has been stood.

Morini bits on eBay.co.uk

Within an hour of me leaving the test centre the bike was taxed (Thank you, DVLA's online system) and I was legally back on the road for the first time since May 2006.

So did I immediately set off on a 200 mile round trip to celebrate a project finished?

Did I heck. I spent the next couple of hours riding round local roads, never going further from home than I was prepared to push the bike in the event of the worst happening, and laden down with most of the tools I'd used while rebuilding the bike. Can't be too careful.

Thankfully, nothing seized up, nothing fell off, and hardly anything came loose.

Finished! 1982 Moto Morini 350K Sport, finished. For Now.

How does it run, after all this work? The rewired alternator has given the bike a much steadier tickover, but I think the carbs may need a tweak to the mixture screws as the bike seems to be a bit fluffy when pulling away after it's been ticking over for a while; it never ticked over for that long before, so it wasn't a problem. Throttle response at lower revs feels a little crisper and the engine feels smoother right through the rev range. Mallory Park will be the true test of it's performance at high revs, but it seems much happier sitting at a steady 75-80mph (private estate, etc.) than it did before.

The new bearings in the swinging arm have made the handling much more taut, and combined with the firmly mounted and thinly padded seat, it's possible to feel what the bike is doing beneath me with much more certainty. I wouldn't want to ride to the south of France on that seat, but for short intense blasts it's more comfortable than it looks.

New shocks from Hagon - Excellent service... New 320mm heavier sprung shocks at bottom, 300mm originals at top

Since the MOT, and partly because of the increased feel from the back of the bike, I've fitted a set of Hagon shock absorbers, built to my own specification and delivered within 24 hours of being ordered.

They're 320mm long rather than the standard 300mm, to raise the back of the bike and quicken the steering, and they're sprung and damped specifically to my weight and riding style. The previous shocks were undersprung and left the bike sitting too low at the back – just looking at it you could see that it looked wrong. The stiffer springs mean that there's now the right amount of sag when I sit on the bike and with the extra ride height the handling is not only tauter but also... sharper. I think there's probably another write-up in this subject, so I'll say no more than small changes like this make big differences, and are generally well worth doing.

All that's left now is to change the oil, clean the oil filter and adjust the chain before heading off to Mallory Park tomorrow. If you're at the Festival of 1000 Bikes please come over and say hello; you can marvel at my tales of running rings round bigger bikes... or help me pick up bits of shattered con-rod, depending on how things go...

Without Whom...

  • Stainless spindle, shed(s) full of equipment and expertise: Paul 'EVGuru' Compton
  • Mudguard: Trail and Trials UK
  • Seat unit: Disco Volante Moto (who are under new management!)
  • Cool rear light: Goffy
  • Seat padding: Mead Speed
  • Braided brake line kit and lots of bits and bobs: WheelFit Motocycles in Cambridge
  • Lots of other bits and bobs: Cambridge Motorcycles
  • Special build rear shock absorbers: Hagon


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